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Trump Comes Out On China And Russia

President-elect Donald Trump suggested he would be open to lifting sanctions on Russia and wasn’t committed to a longstanding agreement with China over Taiwan—two signs that he would use any available leverage to realign the U.S.’s relationship with its two biggest global strategic rivals.

In an hourlong interview, Mr. Trump said that, “at least for a period of time,” he would keep intact sanctions against Russia imposed by the Obama administration in late December in response to Moscow’s alleged cyberattacks to influence November’s election. But he suggested he might do away with those penalties if Russia proved helpful in battling terrorists and reaching other goals important to the U.S.

“If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?” he said.

He also said he wouldn’t commit to America’s agreement with China that Taiwan wasn’t to be recognized diplomatically, a policy known as “One China,” until he saw what he considered progress from Beijing in its currency and trade practices.

The desire to change relations with Moscow in particular has been a goal of American presidents since tensions began rising under President Vladimir Putin’s leadership. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought the same goal early in the Obama administration, as did President George W. Bush, who met Mr. Putin early in his first term.

But Mr. Trump’s diplomatic efforts will have to compete with those in Congress, including many Republicans, who want to see the administration take a tough line with Russia after U.S. intelligence concluded that the government of Mr. Putin sought to influence the November presidential election with a campaign of cyberhacking.

Additionally, an unsubstantiated dossier of political opposition research suggesting ties between Mr. Trump and Russia was published this past week—drawing condemnation from Mr. Trump and his team but keeping Russian espionage in the spotlight. The allegations haven’t been validated by the U.S. intelligence agencies.

Mr. Trump in the interview suggested he might do away with the Obama administration’s Russian sanctions, and he said he is prepared to meet with Mr. Putin some time after he is sworn in.

“I understand that they would like to meet, and that’s absolutely fine with me,” he said.

Asked if he supported the One China policy on Taiwan, Mr. Trump said: “Everything is under negotiation including One China.”

China has considered Taiwan a breakaway province since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists set up a government there in 1949, after years of civil war. Washington’s agreement to rescind diplomatic recognition of the government in Taiwan and uphold a One China policy was a precondition for the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between U.S. and China in 1979. Any suggestion in the past that the U.S. may change its stance has been met with alarm in Beijing.

On Saturday, a statement posted on the Chinese foreign ministry’s website said, “There is but one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.”

It added, “we urge relevant parties in the U.S. to fully recognize the high sensitivity of the Taiwan question, approach Taiwan-related issues with prudence and honor the commitment made by all previous U.S. administrations.”

Though he has long been critical of China, Mr. Trump on Friday also made a point of showing a holiday greeting card he received from China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

“I have a beautiful card from the chairman,” he said.

Mr. Trump seemed impatient with diplomatic protocols involving China and Taiwan. After his victory he took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s leader, triggering objections from Beijing and stoking concerns among some U.S. foreign policy experts who questioned whether he understood the implications of such a conversation.

Speaking of Taiwan, he said: “We sold them $2 billion of military equipment last year. We can sell them $2 billion of the latest and greatest military equipment but we’re not allowed to accept a phone call. First of all it would have been very rude not to accept the phone call.”

Mr. Trump has said in the past he would label China a currency manipulator after he takes office. In the interview, he said he wouldn’t take that step on his first day in the White House. “I would talk to them first,” he said.

He added: “Certainly they are manipulators. But I’m not looking to do that.”

But he made plain his displeasure with China’s currency practices. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re devaluating our currency,’ they say, ‘Oh, our currency is dropping.’ It’s not dropping. They’re doing it on purpose.

“Our companies can’t compete with them now because our currency is strong and it’s killing us.”

The interview came at the end of the week in which Mr. Trump saw much of his national-security team get closer to their appointments but had to push back against the Russia allegations and against criticism from ethics experts of his plan to maintain ownership of his business interests.

Six of his cabinet choices had confirmation hearings, and a number look likely to sail through. Many Democrats offered eager support for his pick for defense secretary, retired Gen. James Mattis.

Mr. Trump also brought his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on as a senior White House adviser, although the appointment could be challenged under antinepotism laws. And he got closer to fulfilling a campaign promise as the Senate and then the House took procedural steps that begin rolling back or repealing the Affordable Care Act.

“He got elected as a fighter and he’s going to be president as a fighter,” said Ed Brookover, a former Trump campaign adviser. He added that Mr. Trump “is going to be a very active president and push a lot of buttons along the way.”

At a jam-packed news conference on Wednesday morning, Mr. Trump was both combative and flattering, shouting down one journalist but praising news outlets who he said covered him fairly. During the session, he accused intelligence agencies of allowing the dossier information to be leaked, and on Twitter he said they were employing the tactics of Nazi Germany. James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said he doesn’t believe intelligence officials leaked the information.

Amid a flurry of questions about the dossier, Mr. Trump avoided most direct answers and made just one admission. For the first time, he said he agrees that Russia was behind the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee and a top aide to campaign rival Mrs. Clinton during the election.

He also tossed in the announcement of his pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, said he would sign executive orders beginning on Jan. 23, and promised to begin negotiating drug prices with pharmaceutical companies to drive costs down.

Questions about his refusal to divest himself of business holdings lingered, though. A few hours after his press conference, U.S. Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub criticized Mr. Trump’s new business arrangement, saying his actions were insufficient to remove potential conflicts.

“Every president in modern times has taken the strong medicine of divestiture,” Mr. Shaub said. “Officials in an administration need their president to show that ethics matter, not only through words but through deeds. This is vitally important if we’re going to have any kind of ethics program.”

On Thursday, Gen. Mattis, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, appeared to buck Mr. Trump numerous times, questioning the motives of Mr. Putin, lauding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and saying the U.S. should closely monitor Iran’s compliance with a nuclear agreement, but he stopped short of rejecting the deal, as Mr. Trump has.

Gen. Mattis also suggested that some national security discussions could be contentious, which he said would lead to the best outcomes.

“It’s not tidy,” he said of the process he is expecting. “It’ll anticipate that anything but the best ideas will win.”

A day earlier, Rex Tillerson , the pick for secretary of state, had told lawmakers he supported arming Ukraine against Russia and said he was supportive of a trade deal Mr. Obama struck with Asian countries, two statements that conflict with Mr. Trump’s platform.

Later that night, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said during a CNN town hall that he was working closely with the president-elect to repeal the health-care law but shot down the idea that there would be a “deportation force” to remove illegal immigrants from the U.S. Mr. Trump had said during the campaign that there would be such a force.

Later in the week, Mr. Trump weighed in on the latest development of the issue that dominated the end of the campaign.

He has spent weeks trying to deflect criticism about his election victory, as Democrats argued that Mrs. Clinton had been sandbagged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of a probe into whether her private email server had been hacked and whether classified material was improperly moved on it.

The FBI ultimately brought no charges, and on Thursday, the Justice Department’s inspector general confirmed it had opened an investigation into decisions by FBI Director James Comey to make public, days before the election, that agents were scouring a new batch of emails for possible examples of misdeeds by Mrs. Clinton while she was at the State Department. Such a revelation shortly before an election was very unusual.

Mr. Trump on Friday tweeted that the FBI was “VERY nice to her,” adding she “should never…have been allowed to run – guilty as hell.”

In another matter, Mr. Trump during Friday’s interview described a special council, made up of 15 to 20 builders and engineers, that would monitor spending on his $1 trillion plan to improve the nation’s roads, bridges and other public works.

“Some of the projects they’ll throw out, some of the projects they’ll expand, but all of the projects they’ll make sure we get a tremendous bang for the buck,” Mr. Trump said.

Courtesy of WSJ

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The Trump Effect On Currencies

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Rhetoric has already had an impact on currencies in a big way

Targeting companies or entire nations on Twitter is an unprecedented and controversial method of communication for a President-elect – but one can’t argue with its effectiveness so far.

In today’s chart, we take a look at Donald Trump’s rather unconventional form of “monetary policy”, and how it has potentially influenced the U.S. dollar and five other major currencies since his election in November.

Ready, Aim, Tweet

A preview of President-elect Trump’s “America First” directive can already be seen on Twitter.

Trump’s infamous account, which is followed by 18.8 million people, is being used every day to highlight the potential winners and losers of future policies.

And markets are listening.

Currency % Change (vs. USD)
Russian Ruble 7.7%
Canadian Dollar 0.4%
Chinese Yuan -1.5%
Euro -5.0%
Mexican Peso -13.4%

The above table shows change in the value of foreign currencies against the U.S. dollar between November 7th, 2016 and today. To be fair, it is worth noting that oil prices have also rallied over this time, and oil also has a pronounced effect on some currencies.

Individual Cases

Central to “America First” is a Trump-branded form of protectionism, which aims to keep jobs and dollars in the U.S at all costs. The President-elect has repeatedly blasted China for currency manipulation, as well as automotive companies which seek to produce cars in Mexico.

China, as one of the world’s major economic powers, has some leeway in any war of words with Trump. While the country sends 18% of its exports to the United States, it could also theoretically benefit economically with the U.S. taking a step back from foreign entanglements. China also holds $1.12 trillion of U.S. treasuries, which gives it some additional leverage.

On the other hand, Mexico has a lot more to worry about. The country sends 80.3% of its exports north of the border and could conceivably lose significant amounts of business if NAFTA is scrapped and tariffs are re-introduced. As a result, even with oil’s gains over the last two months, the peso has dropped -13.4% in value since Trump’s election in November.

An Unlikely Friend

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Trump has been making moves to warm up relations with Russia – a protectionist country that isn’t really a “threat” to U.S. jobs.

Russia, which has been on Trump’s “good side” so far, has had its ruble trade 7.7% higher since the election. These gains partially reflect the future easing of sanctions that were put in place after Moscow’s aggression toward Ukraine in 2014.

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We’ll start with the obvious: the number one export for many countries here is crude oil or related petroleum products. Middle Eastern countries made up a significant portion of global oil export revenues during 2015 with shipments valued at $325 billion or 41.3% of global crude oil exports.

Saudi Arabia, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Iran, and Oman were all among the top 15 exporters of crude oil in 2015. Russia and Kazakhstan, countries on the Central Asian part of the map, were also members of that same group.

Regimes in the region found that there were many other corollary benefits from this economic might. Unrest could be stifled by rising wealth, and these countries would also have more influence than they otherwise would in global affairs. Saudi Arabia is a good example in both cases, though a major driver of Saudi influence has been slipping in recent years.

Outside of Oil

Aside from exports of oil, there are some other interesting subtleties to this map. One of the most advanced economies in the region, Israel, is not dependent on oil exports at all. The country has had to find other ways to create value in the global market and its three major exports include electronics and software, cut diamonds, and pharmaceuticals.

War-torn Afghanistan, which is not a significant producer of petroleum on the world market, gets the majority of its export revenue from different natural resource. Opium is Afghanistan’s most valuable cash crop, and opiates such as opium, morphine, and heroin are its largest export. Fetching an estimated value of $3 billion at border prices, it was estimated to make up about 15% of the country’s GDP equivalent in 2013.

Lastly, countries on the map without oil wealth tend to be less influential on the world stage from a geopolitical perspective. Armenia, for example, mainly exports pig iron, unwrought copper, and nonferrous metals and is the world’s 138th largest exporter by dollar value, ranked in between Jamaica and Swaziland. Surrounded geographically by countries that Yerevan considers hostile, Armenia has increasingly turned to Russia for its support.

Courtesy of VisualCapitalist

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Russian Stocks - Blood In The Streets

Russia's central bank raised interest rates last Friday from 9.5% to 10.5% in an effort to support the falling currency and battle inflation.  When that did nothing, they shocked markets by raising it again overnight from 10.5% to a whopping 17% in what some are calling an emergency move.  This was their sixth interest rate hike this year to support the currency.

The central bank early on Tuesday also increased the maximum volume of foreign currency it provides to Russian banks via its foreign-exchange repurchase agreement auctions for 28 days to $5 billion from $1.5 billion.

Sadly the RUB/USD barely moved. (left image - click to enlarge)

Russia's economy still depends in large measure on sales of oil and gas, which account for about two-thirds of exports, despite liberal policymakers calling for structural economic reform for years.

That means swings in global oil prices have a significant impact on Russia's balance of payments, and therefore the rouble exchange rate.  This will continue to worry investors that companies may not be able to pay their debts.  While Russia has little debt and large cash reserves, one can imagine those reserves must be draining quickly.

Some may have wondered if the Russian ETF $RSX had a capitulation move yesterday but the currency pair this morning has shrugged off the move completely. (right image)  A definite sign that money continues to flee the country enmass.

While crude oil continues to fall, the pressure mounts for Putin to cut crude oil production which represents 60% of the countries exports as Putin's popularity continues to drop.

Russian stocks (not in the energy sector) are also showing the same pain include Sberbank ($SBRCY), Mobile TeleSystems ($MBT),  VimpelCom ($VIP), Millicom International Cellular ($MICF) and Internet search player Yandex ($YNDX).  Are you into buying when things are hated and there's blood in the streets?  These along with $RSX may be names you may wish to research further. 

How low will they go?  Just ask Putin.  One thing is for certain, the bottom is at zero.

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According to Ashraf Laidi:  The following sobering analysis on the S&P500 reinforces our expectations that recent record highs in US equity indices will not be revisited before at least six weeks.

A decline of at least 10% is expected to follow.

-        Last week’s 3.6% decline in the S&P500 single-handedly erased all of the prior seven weeks’ consecutive gains.

The last time the S&P500 erased at least three weeks’ of consecutive gains was the week after the October 2007 record. Stocks fell more than 50% thereafter and took six years to regain that high.

-        And for an unprecedented finding, last week’s S&P5 500 decline took place after SEVEN weekly consecutive gains, which had NEVER been seen before in the index.

Seven consecutive weekly gains have occurred in the past (Aug-Jul 1989, Aug-Sep 1993, Apr-May 1997, Feb-Mar 1998, Dec 2003-Jan 2004, Apr-May 2007, Mar-Apr 2009, Dec 2010-Jan 2011, Jan-Feb 2013), but never in any of those cases has the streak-breaking week fallen by more than 2.0%.

The fact that the magnitude of last week’s declines was nearly 4.0%, following as many as seven rising weeks, shows an unprecedented departure in sentiment from greed to fear.

Kos here.  I've been saying that yes, oil's plunge would affect our rally although CNBS CNBC was telling us no,  For those who like to point fingers at reasons "why", take your pick:

  • Year-end tax selling
  • Even JNK, a proxy for risk, is seeing heavy selling.
  • Strong dollar in a weak economy
  • Maybe this is the market........without the benefit QE.
  • Who wants to "buy" at these high levels, not me.
  • There's an over supply in crude oil and price is finally reverting to reflect that
  • It's not an oil correction, it's a bear market in commodities; period and oil finally joined the club.
  • Oil and gas names have begun to postpone projects (see massive drop in permits in Oct/Nov. to the right) and ALL of their suppliers will feel the pinch as a result which widens the number of stocks which are weak.
  • Sure the average American will have more $ in their pocket to spent at Christmas but that's a drop in the bucket compared to the cut in spending in the oil arena as they tighten their belts with low oil.
  • Risk of defaults from heavily-indebted oil names.  Just ask regional name $CFR
  • When the VIX for crude oil $CVX is closing on the highs, oil's drop isn't over.  Watch for a capitulation move.
  • Saudi Arabia announced they will not cut supply even if crude oil is at $40.
  • They would cut production if someone else does and if Putin were to cut, what would that do to his economy?  Russia's obviously not easily bullied.
  • Russia's central bank announced a rate hike which has sent the Ruble to lows not seen since 1998.  Can you say recession in Russian?  This of course has traders pressuring the central bank to intervene.
  • Don't expect demand to increase any time soon with much of the globe in recession or with weak economies.   This of course, barring any disruption in supply.
  • And just how many cars can people buy when they're taking jobs at minimum wage?
  • The Fed may raise rates mid-2015 however watch the 10 year ($TNX).  It will rise long before the Fed lifts a finger.
  • All commodity currencies are struggling.
  • China's economy is slower than we hoped for with still high property prices.

So what sector could "step up to the plate" and help lead the market higher..........when we're already stretched in valuation? 

I think financials will have their worries.  That's 16% of the S&P500 weighting - not going to rally.  Knock off Industrials thanks to crude. -10% and materials?  Another -3%.  How about Consumer Discretionary?  Poor $F was downgraded today by Deutsche Bank stating that with lower gas prices, consumers may be less apt to shell out cash for a new, more efficient auto, and well all know how TSLA has been falling.  Count them out.  Can technology, staples and healthcare give us a Santa Claus rally alone?  Hopefully there will be no downside surprise with the recent good retail sales numbers.

As volume dries up near the holidays, there tends to be no heavy selling but I'm not placing any bets on anything related to energy.  We shall have to see but it won't be easy.

There's enormous pressure on Russia at this juncture and the other slippery slope is for the Fed........how to raise rates in 2015 after halting quantitative easing and not encourage deflation from persisting. 

Edited 4:35pm to update Sector Weightings graph.

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Will Oil's Fall Damage The Rally?

I have to throw a flag in from the sidelines calling foul on the learned men on CNBCs Fast Money table Friday (video below) as traders remain bullish on the big screen.  In fact, they do not believe crude's fall will impact our rally.  Really?  Josh Brown stated there was no correlation b/w the price of oil and the S&P500 and did their level best to downplay the selling in crude oil.  Alright, overlay a comparison chart (left) and you won't see black gold having an enormous impact on the market with a few exceptions BUT, the energy complex represents an average of 6.9% of U.S. GDP. 

If it's a bear market, this changes the scenery.  Come on Josh; there's much more that you're not saying and we know it.  Stay with me here.  So typically if we saw a ten percent correction in crude, another sector in the S&P would merely step up to the plate and help lead such as tech or financials.

This time, however, we see regional banks such a Cullen-Frost (who lend to oil names down here in Texas for oil and gas projects) not only falling, but falling HARD on heavy volume......right OUT of a wide range top.  It not only took out a years worth of stops, it fell hard below the 20 month SMA which has historically been solid support for this Texas regional bank.  Risk of defaults in regional banks?   In these parts, one would say "esto no es bueno".

Concurrently, the Barclays high yield bond fund, $JNK and iShares high yield corporate bond fund $HYG (proxys for risk appetite) have all but taken out not only their 2014 gain, but the 2013 as well......closing in on the May/June 2012 low now.  If this isn't telling you this is more than a typical correction, it should be.

Now here's where I believe the sell off in crude becomes more important than being said:  Capital expenditures being lowered and postponed in energy names and THAT, my friend, is a huge difference than past corrections in black gold.  You never had these worries in financials and bonds when crude itself had a 10% correction.

As pointed out by Ashraf Laidi

Yes, Joe the Plumber will have more cash to spend with gasoline near $2/gallon BUT the benefit will be nothing in comparison to the cutback on capex spending.  With such low crude prices, companies will postpone capital expenditures, new wells, new machinery, whatever they can which is going to impact every one of their suppliers............and you can see it in all the oil and gas suppliers such as SLB.

Now *IF* Russia, Saudi Arabia or someone were to balk and cut production, then supply will tighten and prices will rise however at this juncture, no one is blinking.  Russia holds almost no debt and tons of cash reserves.  They can bide their time as can Saudi Arabia with only $10/barrel needed to remain profitable.  Unless a pipeline explodes, this could go on for some time.  O&G names with heavy debt I'm sure are already feeling the pain.  Just look at the oil services ETF $OIH and you won't want to catch that knife. 

If commodities are, in fact, reverting to the mean, I won't be buying any energy names just yet.  It could be a while as they postpone projects, tighten their belts, reorganize, restructure and yes, some definite M&A may be ahead.  But M&A alone is not a reason for "me" to buy a stock.  I want my money working for me; not sitting with losses hoping there's a buyout.  Call me crazy but I'm staying away from the energy complex or shorting it further on any spike.  By the time all the dust settles, I don't think it will be pretty.

Bottom line on the rally, yes, I think it's going to weigh on the rally.  How much is yet to be seen but this is not your typical 10% oil correction.  Financials may not be able to help take up the slack.  Then there's the strong U.S. dollar.  Oye.  The holidays can't get here fast enough.  With them comes lower volume and usually, less selling pressure.  Unless it's different this time.

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Countries Hurt By Lower Crude Oil

As the price of oil extends a free fall that began this summer, countries around the world that rely on oil revenues are bracing for an imminent economic and budget hit.  The drop is widening budget gaps in the Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain that rely heavily on oil to pay government services.

With oil and gas production accounting for some 70% of Russia's government spending, Moscow also faces a big shortfall—after budgeting based on $100-a-barrel oil for 2015. Russia's economic growth was already slowing before the plunge in oil prices. Trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe—in response to the invasion of the Ukraine—will further crimp growth and government spending.

The impact of budget gaps among big producers like Saudi Arabia and Russia, though, will be softened somewhat by large reserves built up during boom years. But a protracted era of cheap oil would force them to undertake serious belt-tightening.

Note:  Click on a country to see what % of it's GDP is derived from crude oil.

Courtesy of CNBC

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Time To Get Back In Russia?

As the old saying goes, 'buy' when stocks are hated and there's blood in the streets but for the Russian market, one might want to sit on their hands before buying the Russian ETF RSX until Mr. Putin becomes more "market friendly".

It would seem Putin’s dream of making Russia one of the world’s five biggest economies by 2020 is now in ruins, according to Sergei Guriev, a former economic adviser to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev who fled to Paris last year. He says it could have been achieved had Putin focused on delivering economic growth of 5 percent to 6 percent as promised.

“Russia had such a massive potential because of its inefficiencies that it was perfectly feasible to achieve this rate of economic growth,” said Guriev. “What changed is that the government decided not to fulfill its promises.”

According to Bloomberg The sentiment was different in 2000, when Putin replaced Boris Yeltsin. One of his early acts was to close Russia’s radar base in Cuba, the only intelligence-gathering center it had in the Western Hemisphere. He also shut a naval base in Vietnam, its biggest outside Warsaw Pact countries. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Putin pledged unconditional support for the U.S.

Those days are now consigned to what might have been. Putin began turning away from his new friends as early as 2003, and accelerated the retreat as his third term in the Kremlin got under way in 2012. He cracked down on dissidents, curbed economic freedoms and, this year, fomented the rebellion in eastern Ukraine.  The engagement with Ukraine has put the economy on a far weaker growth path.

Additionally, Russia's GDP has been suffering as the price of oil has fallen at the same time U.S. and UK sanctions are applying pressure.  Now bordering on recession, Russia suffers mounting international sanctions and, increasingly, is a pariah in capital markets. While the MSCI World Index of equities is up 9.7 percent from a year ago, the Micex is down 2.9 percent. The ruble, which today reached a record low, has fallen 30 percent since Putin first became president.

Global investors withdrew about $850 million from Russian bond and stock funds in the year through Sept. 24, according to data compiled by EPFR Global in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said on Sept. 18 that this month’s arrest of billionaire Vladimir Evtushenkov could lead to increased capital flight.

Russian Central Bank denies rumors they will institute controls to try to stem capital flow out of the beleaguered country, feeling they would be a action of last resort according to Reuters.  What comes next is anyone's guess but it would seem Putin has been put in check and the next move is his.

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Pooty said in an hour-long TV interview on Thursday. “We sell gas in European countries which have around 30-35 percent of their gas balance covered by supplies from Russia. Can they stop buying Russian gas? In my opinion it is impossible.” Don't count your куры before they're hatched Pooty, old boy.

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Throwback Thursday Reads

  • No shocker here as the FTC issues a blistering rebuke of states limiting sales of TSLA direct consumer sales.
  • So much for the peace accord with Russia as they begin military exercises (WSJ)  Markets will not like this continued uncertainty.  Watch crude oil, gold, silver and copper.  You will note that bonds $BND (flight to safe haven) have been holding up.  Not everyone is pouring money into equities.
  • The first regulation proposals are coming out on e-cigarettes  $LO currently holds a 42% market share..
  • Talk about putting cash to work.  AAPL has bought 24 companies in the last 18 months.  Searching for innovation allthewhile announcing an increase to their stock buyback, stock split and quarterly dividend to keep value investors in the name.  Oh, and an earnings beat once again to a low bar set.  Way to go Tim Cook.
  • The FCC said it will propose rules today that could give high-speed Internet providers more power on what content moves the fastest on the Web based on which firms pay the most.  These net neutrality rules (to be voted on May 15th) could dramatically reshape Web experiences of consumers, where videos for ESPN.com, $FB or YouTube might be delivered more smoothly because of payments to broadband providers such as $CMCSA, $T and $VZ. The streaming videos of a smaller competitor could be halted with buffering and low-quality images if those firms aren't able to pay ISPs access to faster Internet lanes into American homes.  Whatever happened to a level playing field?

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